Hannah Wiggins wrote The Piece (née “Shall Be Delivered”) on how asymmetric cryptography distinguishes humans from the mob, strong recommend even a decade after publicationGoodness gracious, has it really been a decade? The world has changed such, we’ve all lost so much and learned so much. Can it be that Trilema is truly off the public net for good? From … Continue reading. All the more disappointing then, that Maggie Appleton doesn’t even mention it in her piece on how surprisingly adequate GPT and friends have grown at imitating the output of your typical human. tl;dr Maggie, if you’re reading text that wasn’t published by an individual who publishes a GPG key you got from some channel you trust, you are axiomatically unable to distinguish them from internet noise. Go, read! Wiggins’ “Shall Be Delivered” still chills and inspires me.
“Eternal September” may strike a chord among the washed-out astronomers turned sysadmin who had to grapple with a new wave of students clamoring for logins on their precious VAXenKudos really to Stan’s ever-entertaining Russo/Ameriglish coinage, but he doesn’t really have anything linkable on the topic, and the hallowed logs didn’t link out to much else … Continue reading; perhaps another with those who grew up on Usenet trading bottom-posted emails with other folks smart enough to have a computer back in those days; perhaps yet another harmonic with the Bruce Sterlings of the world who endured kids like me pissing in the sacred forum of his time.
Nothing repeats but it (Busta!) rhymes; as each cohort matures (into) its public comms protocols, it experiences a wave of newcomers who through actual youth or mere inexperience with the tools (top posting reeeee!), the manners, and the shibboleths, are indistinguishable from each other (or a dog, to twist the old joke). “Every September,” the sages howl, “we have to deal with a new raft of kids on the servers! A new pile of idiots to teach the conventions of email communication! And they just keep coming in their relentless millions! Computers are ever cheaper, which means we True People will forever be a declining share of the comms bandwidth!”
ARPANET, Usenet, The Well, RedditFacebook is the interesting case of the kids getting a comms platform first and then all of the adults showing up after., all have a mythology of the true olds vs the young n00bs, and as with all mythologies they tell the same story, and of course they do: more people do show up every year. Computers got so cheap and so small that even children have them now, and lo the children are out there polluting their elders spaces and simultaneously carving their own spaces out for private conversation. The age old cycle of death and renewal written across IRC, XMPP, email, PHPBB fora…
Everywhere and at all times the same wail: “how do we distinguish the real humans from dreck coughed up on the shores of our little island this year?” Pitiable, as we’d had cryptographic identity for years. years and years even before the first Republic of Bitcoin took a hard dependency on GPG as the foundation for contracts and identity, and petulant for ignoring the construct.
“Crypto”, tragically reduced in the cant to derpy microledgers on Ethereum or a derivative, is yet under the hood used to encrypt, decrypt and sign vastly more bits than any of the non- or otherwise fungible tokens. That self-same signing mechanism that drove a comically large bubble in post-tradfin assets is super useful in determining if you’re talking to a real human.
It’s almost not worth the ink, but here’s how you use cryptography to ensure that you’re talking to a specific entity:
- Get their key.
- Verify they’ve signed something with that key.
- If you ever need to confirm that the entity with whom you’re talking is in fact the entity you think it is, simply ask them to decrypt a message containing a one-use token encrypted to their public key.
How does it work? Well:
- We assume that anyone who can produce material encrypted to a private key in a short period of time is in possession of that key.
But! If you’re surrounded by AIs (or, you know, just a whole bunch of people) who’ve set up their own signing keys (which is to say that you’re under a sybil attack), you’re now in a situation where simply having a key isn’t enough, you also need to start filtering people out.
To effect that filter, resort to classic social networking. You have to know someone, have their key, and they have to know other people. From that network (classically called a “web of trust”), you can bridge from people that you know to people that they know, with possible intermediaries between.
This bridge of identity is no guarantee of trust between parties (see the First Republic of Bitcoin’s final exit scam at the root node), but it does at least give you a way to identify nodes in your comms network, and to prune misbehaving nodes and their intermediaries.
Stan and friends are generalizing this to packet routing with Pest.
In the light of all the above (decades of cryptography, mutually-signed public keys, the Web of Trust), it’s ultra tragic (but ultimately a symptom the disinformation regime’s success in drowning out viable alternatives to itself) that Appleton suggests, as option 4, to “Consider Institutional Verification”. Institutional verification didn’t get us far during the Covid-19 infopocalypse, when operators of social media platforms took their marching orders on censorship topics from the very institutions nominally sworn to uphold the principles of free speech. You can trust institutions to do precisely one thing: further their own interests. Deplatforming and shadowbanning were the tools of repression in 2022, and I can’t imagine getting any mileage out of delegating identity to those self-same institutions; what, you want to actually loose your identity if you stick up and stick out? Pas pour moi, mercibo.
Lars Doucet hits the plausible outcomes here, but I’m most interested in his #5: “…people will get sucked into the online world even harder.” In my circles of nihilist techno-cynics, we call this the “farming incels” play. Given the disproportionate amount of waste males in the system (because we don’t engage in warfare any more, because the early-childhood fatality rate is so low, economic opportunities are effectively zilch given that there’s no world war to rebuild after…pick your reason), women are subjected to an endless barrage of low-value bids for their attention from males of the species without a plausible shot at reproduction, much less companionship. It’s clear that even low-fidelity virtual worlds like World of Warcraft (and to a much lesser extent Eve Online) are entirely capable of hoovering up an entire psychosocial demographic into their vortex and largely not letting them go.
I would love to get into the business of farming incels. Alls one needs is a waifu-bot, and the time to plug it into Signal/WhatsApp/Telegram, and you’re off to the races. We can strike deals with Coca-Cola, and subtly plug their products! If you want to pitch it as a good thing for the world, our waifu-for-incels program can even steer folks towards positive health outcomes through diet and exercise! Or we can just milk them on an ongoing basis with pennies for n00ds.
Folks are scared for artists, I’m sad for the ladies “posting hole”. This is one wrecking ball we all want to be on the right side of.
|↑1||Goodness gracious, has it really been a decade? The world has changed such, we’ve all lost so much and learned so much. Can it be that Trilema is truly off the public net for good? From intellectual poverty came, and to intellectual poverty apparently we must all return|
|↑2||Kudos really to Stan’s ever-entertaining Russo/Ameriglish coinage, but he doesn’t really have anything linkable on the topic, and the hallowed logs didn’t link out to much else either.|
|↑3||Facebook is the interesting case of the kids getting a comms platform first and then all of the adults showing up after.|